Remembering Our Passover Lamb

My heart is overflowing this morning with joy and we come to Mark 14:22-26. Grab your Bibles and turn with me to Mark 14:22-26. There’s also an outline in your worship guide along with the passage for this morning.

Our series in Mark brings us to the institution of the Lord’s Supper. It’s the moment in time when Jesus inaugurated it. The ordinance has several ways of referring to in the New Testament, including: the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:20), the Lord’s Table, the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42; 20:7), the communion or fellowship (1 Cor 11:26), and the eucharist (1 Cor 11:24).

It is here instituted by Jesus, it is practiced by believers since the inception of the church, and it will be confirmed to the church by the apostle Paul.

It was a joy to study this topic today and be shaped by it. My views on the Lord’s Supper grew from studying these passages again. And it filled my heart with praise and gratitude toward Jesus.

That’s my hope is that today we will gain a deeper understanding, a more comprehensive understanding of our communion with Jesus and that would equal greater worship redounding to God as we expand our knowledge of him.

Friends, communion is a spiritual gift, a present from Jesus to his people. In fact, that’s the outline:

Three Activities as Jesus Institutes Communion for Us

It’s for us. 

In this text, Jesus is going to hijack the Passover meal and transform it into something new as history transitions from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant.

  1. He commandeers elements for the fellowship (22-24)

He takes elements out of the Passover meal and he gives them new significance. To commandeer something is to take it over. Most of our time today will be spent on these first two verses.

  1. He cultivates anticipation for the future (25)

The Lord’s Supper is designed to leave you desiring, expecting and wanting more. Not more of this life, but to be thinking about the life that is to come.

  1. He concludes by singing to the Father (26)

The night is heavy because Jesus is going to be betrayed in the next hours and falsely accused and tried. But he’s thanking the Father and singing with joy after this meal.

This morning I want you to see that communion is yet another way that Jesus blesses us. It is part of his tender care as our good shepherd. It is a gift and a provision for us spiritually. 

For anyone else to demand remembrance after they die would be narcissistic.

Imagine if before dying I said to the church, “could you guys gather together after I’m gone to remember me. I want you to drink espressos for old times’ sake and talk about what I accomplished in life… and not just on my birthday or the anniversary of my death but gather to remember me frequently.”

This is totally different. Jesus gives us communion out of his love for us.

Mark 14:22-26—22 While they were eating, He took some bread, and after a blessing He broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is My body.” 23 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 And He said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 “Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” 26 After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Three Activities as Jesus Institutes Communion for Us

  1. He commandeers elements for the fellowship (22-24)

Jesus is going to grab these familiar elements, common elements (bread and wine) and rip them out of the traditional Passover meal and bring them into new use. It’s familiar to us, it wasn’t to them.

If you are the disciples, you are eating Passover with Jesus. If they are roughly the same age as Jesus, then this is the thirtieth or so time that you’ve observed this meal.

As a boy each of these men would have grown up experiencing the reminder each year of God’s deliverance. It was a special time together of reflection and celebration. It would be anticipated. It was much like how a child anticipates today Christmas or Easter or Thanksgiving, but in this case, there were deep religious components.

That night they were expecting a normal evening together reclining around the table as was the customary physical posture for taking the Passover meal.

Of course, as we saw last time, what would have been an otherwise joyful evening was hijacked by the bombshell dropped early on in the evening by Jesus. He predicted that one of these close friends would be a betrayer, a backstabber.

The disciples were deeply disturbed by this.

They were unsure who the one might be, even considering themselves. Within the previous minutes, Jesus had to correct a dinnertime debate that arose at the table over who was going to be the foremost in the glorious reign alongside King Jesus.

One by one, the men asked Jesus, “I’m not the one, am I?” Each time expecting Jesus to say, “nope, it’s not you.” He got to Judas, and Judas played the part. Jesus leaned in and said, “you just said it yourself” (Matthew 26:25).

The others didn’t hear because immediately after that Jesus said, “Judas take your bread and go… and he left.” The guys assume Judas is doing some prearranged activity for the taking care of the poor and don’t even bat an eyelash, so to speak.

Judas left before the institution of the Lord’s Supper. John 13 says that he went out immediately after dipping the morsel. That was a particular part of the meal in the early portion where the bread was dipped into a paste of fruit and nuts.

Judas leaves and the men continue the meal. The meal they are all so familiar with. At this point they are most likely eating the roasted lamb.

The meal is now nearing an end. Mark says that it took place…

(22) While they were eating, 

Jesus interrupts.

He took some bread, 

The bread here was matzah—crispy flatbread, not fluffy loaves. It’s basically just flour and oil baked to a crisp. Like giant crackers these breads were stacked up in the middle of the table.

Jesus says a blessing. He isn’t blessing the food. We don’t bless the food. We bless the God who gives us the food. That’s what Jesus does before giving out food elsewhere in the New Testament.

And then…

and after a blessing He broke it, 

… snapping the matzah into eleven pieces…

and gave it to them, 

This wasn’t a customary part of the meal. Decades of celebrating Passover they had never experienced this during a Passover meal before. And as Jesus breaks the flow and breaks the bread and starts handing out pieces he urges them…

and said, “Take it; this is My body.” 

And in this simple act, Jesus hijacks the former symbol and commandeers it for a new purpose. 

Now we know that no bones of Jesus’ are broken when he dies so when he breaks the bread it isn’t depicting the manner of his death, but rather the reality of it. Likewise then, in v. 23—

(23) And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 And He said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 

These words have presented no shortage of controversy in the church. One of the great ironies of course is that this fellowship meal is designed to express our unity. But it has been a point of contention as it pertains to the matter of what Jesus means when he says: this is my body and this is my blood.

A proper understanding of language accounts for metaphors. Jesus isn’t saying that the bread he holds in his hand is actually his body, this is obvious.

Rather it is a symbol of his body, a representation. Jesus is no more a piece of flatbread than he is a literal vine (John 15:1, 5) or a literal door (John 10:9) or a literal shepherd who sleeps outside at night while taking care of animals (John 10:11). He doesn’t want us to drink his physical blood anymore than he wanted us to eat his physical flesh in John 6, where the metaphor is connected to believing.

The bread is the representation of his body, the wine a representation of his blood.

But this issue pertaining to how Jesus relates to these elements is important. There are four main views of how Jesus relates to us in the partaking of Communion. I want to briefly outline these views and how they line up according to Scripture.

The first two are clearly unbiblical views of what Jesus means.

  1. Transubstantiation. Once the bread and wine are consecrated, they become the literal body and blood of Jesus. The Roman Catholic view, a grave error concerning the nature of Christ. It is a mystical view that once a priest consecrates the elements they transform into the very body and blood of Jesus.

  2. Consubstantiation. The real body and blood of Jesus is present “in, with and under” the bread and wine. In other words, the bread doesn’t become the flesh of Jesus. The wine doesn’t become the blood of Jesus. But his presence accompanies these elements.

By way of analogy, consider a water-filled sponge. The water is not the sponge. The sponge is not the water. But a wet sponge doesn’t exist apart from water. This is the view that Martin Luther held. He knew that the Roman Catholic view was incorrect, but he didn’t reform enough on this topic. He carried that baggage. Still the Lutheran view today.

  1. Spiritual Presence. The elements themselves are nothing more than bread and wine. But they are more than symbols. Rather the spiritual presence of Christ is conveyed to the participant through faith. This is the view of John Calvin. It is the view held as the historic reformed position.

Calvin himself admitted that there is mystery here. It is difficult to describe exactly. He rejected the false views about the body of Jesus being present yet was convinced that by faith there is a real fellowship with Jesus himself that is unique.

When you take Communion then, it involves the special presence of Christ. God is everywhere present, but not in the same way. So here Jesus is near us as we observe Communion.

John MacArthur and Dick Mayhue caution:

The language of spiritual presence can be potentially confusing and unhelpful—perhaps causing some to think in terms of mystical encounters, ecstatic experiences, or the real presence in a Lutheran or even Roman Catholic way.

So, there’s a watchword here.

  1. Symbolic. This is the one you are probably most familiar with. These elements are physical symbols which commemorate the death of Christ in our behalf. Jesus said to do this in remembrance of him, he said that the cup is a sign of his covenant. Jesus isn’t in the elements in any special way.

As the Passover was a remembrance, so too this meal. This is the view of Erlich Zwingli, the Reformer from Zurich. It’s the most common view in America today among evangelical churches.

Luke 22:19—And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

Now we want to be driven to our conclusions not by systematic theology or by logical or rational deductions according to human reasoning. But rather by the careful consideration of the texts of Scripture and let that inform us.

Categorically the first two views are taught nowhere in Scripture. Jesus became a man and he doesn’t physically enter the flatbread or the wine.

And as to the next two, the symbolic view is clearly taught and is at the very least assumed in the spiritual presence view. 

So, really the only question we must answer is, are these merely token and symbols, or is Christ spiritually present in a distinct way during the partaking of Communion? 

As I consider these views, I’m not on board with every way I’ve read the spiritual presence view articulated, but I believe the Scriptures seem to indicate that the Lord’s Supper is more than a remembrance and the presence of Jesus is among us in a unique way.

Not in the bread or the juice. Those are just commemorative elements.

Let me show you how I’ve come to this conclusion:

First, this precedent already exists in various places in the New Testament. Namely, that Jesus promises his presence (which is on the one hand everywhere) in a special or distinct way to bless:

Matthew 28:18–20—18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

When we engage in the process of going out to proclaim the gospel and make disciples, Jesus promises his presence with us to empower and enable that work. Prior the great commission, Jesus gave instructions concerning church discipline. He knew it would be difficult for humans to carry out such a spiritually weighty task.

And so, he says:

Matthew 18:19–20—19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

Is Jesus always in our midst when we pray. Of course, he is. What’s different in Matthew 18? Well, it’s a particular situation that he is saying will invoke his care and his presence to bless. So we have a precedent for Jesus providing himself to his people in a special way in various situations.

Second, the Scriptures explaining this fellowship meal appear to indicate this same reality.

In 1 Corinthians 10, the Apostle Paul provides additional insight into the Lord’s Supper that we don’t encounter here in the institution by Jesus. Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 10. This is a fuller explanation that what Jesus gives in Mar.

Paul’s language indicates there is something special and unique here as those who belong to Jesus fellowship with him in the partaking of this meal.

Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 10 and let’s look at this together.

1 Corinthians 10:16—16 Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? 

He’s talking about Communion… the cup and the bread. And he is saying, it’s a participation, a fellowship in the blood and the body of Christ? There is an association with Jesus here that is unique, but it is through faith.

This is corroborated in the very next chapter. Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 11:26. 

1 Corinthians 11:26-32—26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. 27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 

That’s an unusual statement to find in Scripture. I mean, the corporate gathering is important as we worship together each Lord’s Day. But I can’t think of any warning close to this about coming to church in a casual or unworthy manner incurring guilt.

So why here? Because 

28 But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. 30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world. (Cf., surrounding context.)

And just think about it, of course we don’t want to come to gather for corporate worship casually. Of course we are to revere the Lord in our hearts.

But there aren’t any specific warnings in the New Testament about gathering corporately as a church in an unworthy manner. But there is a warning as it pertains to partaking of communion. Why?

Because the symbol is closely related to the reality. How you regard Communion is how you regard Jesus Christ. Carelessness with Communion is carelessness with Jesus Christ.

Many years ago my wife and I went to visit a ministry with nationwide influence. It was the Young, Restless and Reformed camp. And we went there because we were traveling that particular weekend for a wedding and decided to check it out.

And in the service, they partook of Communion.

At that time, I didn’t have the depth of convictions that I have now, but we couldn’t partake that day. The reason was because it was flippant. The whole thing was flippant. There was no explanation about the elements and what they meant.

There was no clarification that you had to be a blood-bought believer in order to partake. There was no warning to examine yourself and take sober-mindedly. And to top it off you had the band playing so loud you couldn’t have any quiet for reflection.

Look, people died in Corinth because they came and treated the Lord’s Supper carelessly. And Jesus is so connecting himself to the observance that he says when you treat the symbol that way, you treat me that way.

Jesus isn’t mystically here in the elements. But this is an act of worship, and he is here in a distinct way to bless and to judge. I can’t explain it beyond that. I just leave it where the text does here.

Well let’s go back to Mark. We left things at the bread.

(23) And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 

This was supposed to be the third of four cups of wine that were passed around during the evening. One cup, eleven men. They all drank from it.

Sometimes people debate about whether we must use wine since diluted wine was used during this meal. But if you really want to be biblical, we are passing one cup, which clearly depicts our unity, but perhaps a bit more than most of us are comfortable with.

My first communion out of a shared cup was when we were staying with some relatives who were Episcopalians. There you kneel in a circle and drink wine from the chalice. All I knew is the cup had already gone around the circle and when it got to me it was down to the backwash in the bottom of the chalice with floaties in it from the bread.

I can say this. That Communion was impacting. Not sure that it was the spiritual impact that we were looking for.

Obviously, the logistics of that evening couldn’t be replicated exactly. When the church at Jerusalem was in the 1,000’s they weren’t drinking out of one cup and breaking one piece of bread—it was many cups and many pieces of bread.

Nevertheless, there is a symbolism here in the unity. One Lord. One faith. One baptism. One body. One cup.

Jesus gave thanks again here—eucharisto. You recognize that from Eucharist. That was the historic name for the Lord’s Supper. The main reason we don’t use that term today is due to the fact that the Eucharist is the common name for communion by groups that have false views about Jesus Christ and his sacrifice.

Jesus selected common elements from the table.

If you have turkey at Thanksgiving and Roast at Christmas and Lamb for Easter those are the uncommon elements. But what is common? You probably have bread at all three. You have a beverage at all three. The bread and wine are common. The bitter herbs and lamb were distinct.

But now the cup has new significance. The forgiveness of sins and another symbol as well:

(24) And He said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 

A phrase that has lost its shock value to us. Here’s my blood guys…

Consider how Jews viewed blood. Today the concern over blood. Puerto Rico eating blood sausage! It’s generally not appetizing. So, when someone hands you a cup of red liquid and says, “drink my blood” it was appalling and jarring.

In our house, you’d probably get sent out of the meal for doing something like this. When you describe food in such a way that it makes it unappetizing for everyone else then you have to leave.

But this statement has nothing to do with platelets and red and white blood cells, or oxygenation. It’s about a gift.

As with the breaking of bread that symbolized death and not broken bones, the blood doesn’t mean that Jesus bled to death. He gave up his Spirit. That’s how he died. Pouring out blood means dying. And it has a sacrificial dimension to it.

Furthermore, blood is used for sealing covenants. Covenants needed blood. Blood was always part of the ratifying or the establishing of a covenant. It was required to activate and seal the covenant and take it from concept to binding reality.

  • God’s covenant with Noah ratified with blood (Genesis 8:20)

  • God’s covenant with Abraham, blood (Genesis 15:10)

  • God’s covenant with Moses, again blood (Exodus 24:5-8; Leviticus 17:11)

And now we hear a familiar theme that if we are following the history of redemption throughout Scripture, we are primed, ready and waiting for:

Luke 22:20—And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.

It’s for you. That’s what he told these men. It’s my blood. It’s my precious blood. It’s my life. It’s the blood of God. It’s the blood of the Lamb without blemish and spot. And it’s not just for you eleven men:

Matthew 26:28—for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.

God made a promise, a new deal, a new relationship. And this one isn’t from the blood of bulls and goats, but he ratified it with his own blood.

Mark 10:45—“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

This is just what the prophets foretold:

Isaiah 53:12—…yet He Himself bore the sin of many…

In fact, the actual blood was poured out for many. This is sacrificial language.

These guys had to be floored. We’ve heard this hundreds of times. We know the full story. They are celebrating Passover, arguing about whose gonna get the most important role next to King Jesus in his kingdom. Jesus’ drops the bomb that one of them is a Benedict Arnold. No one tracks who it is, even when Judas leaves.

And now as these eleven men are reclining at the table Jesus says, “here I am—behold your sacrificial lamb.”

Everything about the lamb has generated an expectation for the significance of this moment. It all pointed to the cross. The lamb would leave the distinct impression on the family that someone or something needed to die as a result of sin in order to satisfy the wrath of God.

And it demonstrated substitution.

What we just celebrated tonight was all pointing to and is now fulfilled in me.

This isn’t merely the last Passover he will eat with the disciples. The Passover Lamb is here at the feast tonight and the sun sets on that epoch and dawns on a new one through the cross, the ultimate sacrifice.

You are tasting roasted lamb reminding you that your sin needs a substitute. And here I am. I’m your substitute. I’m your Passover lamb. Passover is gone. A new meal is here because I’m here. What a blessing!

Well, that’s how Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. These last two activities we will look at of his are brief.

Three Activities as Jesus Institutes Communion for Us

  1. He commandeers elements for the fellowship (22-24)

  2. He cultivates anticipation for the future (25)

All of this is to leaves us looking ahead to more. As Passover served a type (a dim shadow that points to something greater) as Passover was a type for Jesus the Passover lamb. Communion is a type of the future reality of dining with Jesus in his kingdom.

Look at how he builds this anticipation:

(25) “Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” 

Guys, this is the last one with me, until we do it again in the kingdom.

Here is clear reference as we would expect indicating that the kingdom isn’t here right now in its fullness. It has been inaugurated, but we are still waiting for it to come to fruition. Jesus is reigning in the hearts of his people, but he hasn’t come to fulfill his rule on the earth as he promised.

Communion then not only looks back at the cross, and around at one another, but ahead to a future feast with Jesus. The drink he is talking about is wedding wine. Eating and drinking at a wedding feast.

See, Revelation 19 describes the day when Jesus the Lamb receives his bride, the church. She is beautiful and glorious that day, presented clean and without spot. And then there is a marriage supper a celebration of a royal wedding.

Does that not blow your mind? Jesus refers often to this meal in his discourses.

And it was the joy of the church to do this. Acts 2:42 it was taking place daily. By Acts 20:7 it was taking place weekly. The believers loved to partake of the Lord’s Supper.

In fact, it was so well known that Christians did this, it was so defining of them as a people that part of their reproach by the Romans came from celebrating the Lord’s Supper. It is an expression of love and fellowship and unity with one another, it was referred to then as a love feast.

And it was rumored that they were involved in orgies and incest over all the talk of love and people calling each other brother and sister. 

It was also thought that they were cannibals since they would eat the body and drink the blood of Jesus. It was rumored that they would eat infants in the service. All of it was unfounded of course. But it demonstrates that Communion was a significant priority in the worship of Jesus Christ by his people.

In fact, I don’t believe we emphasize it enough here at Cornerstone, and I believe we don’t partake of it as frequently as we ought to if we just consider how it was viewed in the New Testament and adopt that as our pattern.

Each day or each week as those early Christians partook, they anticipated the wedding feast that was coming.

Three Activities as Jesus Institutes Communion for Us [A Special Fellowship with Him]

  1. He commandeers elements for the fellowship (22-24)

  2. He cultivates anticipation for the future (25)

  3. He concludes by singing to the Father (26)

(26) After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 

The meal would end by singing Psalm 118. The final words of that Psalm are:

Psalm 118:28–29—28 You are my God, and I give thanks to You; You are my God, I extol You. 29 Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting.

It was getting late at this time. Probably around 9:00 pm, give or take. The meal began at sunset and now they are on their way to the Mount of Olives. There is a note of joyful confidence and gratitude to God.

At the same time this is a sober time.

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